RICKY’S PREVIEW • PREDICTION FOR THE MEN’S U.S. OPEN FINAL: DJOKOVIC VS. DEL POTRO

Written by: on 8th September 2018
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USA TENNIS US OPEN 2018
RICKY'S PREVIEW • PREDICTION FOR THE MEN'S U.S. OPEN FINAL: DJOKOVIC VS. DEL POTRO

epa06997474 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina waits for a serve from John Isner of the US during the ninth day of the US Open Tennis Championships the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 04 September 2018. The US Open runs from 27 August through 09 September. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE  |
Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina waits for a serve from John Isner of the US during the ninth day of the US Open Tennis Championships the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 04 September 2018. The US Open runs from 27 August through 09 September.  EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro will be squaring off for the 19th time in their careers when they battle for the U.S. Open title on Sunday.

 

Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a reutrn to Kei Nishikori of Japan during their semi-final match on the twelfth day of the US Open Tennis Championships the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 07 September 2018. The US Open runs from 27 August through 09 September. EPA-EFE/BRIAN HIRSCHFELD

Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 14-4, but the rivalry is far more competitive interesting that those numbers indicate. Seven of their last 10 meetings have required decisive sets and another during this span went 7-6(4), 7-6(2) in favor of Del Potro (2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics first round). Djokovic has won each of their previous U.S. Open encounters in straights, but the first came back in 2007 and the second included one of the most incredible sets of tennis in recent history (during the 2012 quarterfinals).

 

Both Djokovic and Del Potro have bounced back from various injuries and will be ranked in the top four on Monday. Del Potro’s wrist issues have been well-documented for many years, but he is finally back to his best–or at least close–with an amazing 43-10 record for his 2018 campaign. The world No. 3 has advanced in New York with defeats of Donald Young, Denis Kudla, Fernando Verdasco, Borna Coric, John Isner, and Rafael Nadal (retirement after two sets), dropping only one set to Isner in the process.

 

“I cannot believe that I will have a chance to play another Grand Slam final here, which is my favorite tournament,” Del Potro commented. “So it will be special to me…. I think I’ve been doing a good tournament. And in the final, anything can happen. If I win, great. If not, I (have) been playing a great tournament and I will be happy anyways.”

 

Djokovic’s struggles were more recent and much shorter-lived. The Serb missed the second half of last season and slumped through the first four months of his 2018 comeback, but he raise his level with a quarterfinal run at the French Open, a runner-up finish at Queen’s Club, and a fourth Wimbledon title. Djokovic is 12-0 in his last 12 matches after winning the Cincinnati Masters and picking up U.S. Open wins over Marton Fucsovics, Tennys Sandgren, Richard Gasquet, Joao Sousa, John Millman, and Kei Nishikori. The 13-time slam champion surrendered sets to Fucsovics and Sandgren but has since picked up the pace in a major way.

 

“It will be a difficult match because we are close friends,” Del Potro noted. “For sure we both want to win. But Novak has won the Wimbledon already. He’s playing so good. He will be the favorite to win on Sunday. But I don’t know. When I played Roger (Federer) nine years ago he was the favorite to win, as well. I will try to make the surprise again.”

 

Djokovic will not be caught by surprise.

 

“He was always a top-five player in the eyes I think of everyone,” the world No. 6 said of his upcoming opponent. “Even when he dropped his ranking and started to work his way up, we all knew that he has a capacity and a quality to get to the point where he is at the moment. It was just a matter of time.

 

“I saw today before the match against Nadal a stat that he’s the player that made most wins against No. 1s of the world. That shows the quality that he has, especially in the big matches. He’s a big-time player; he’s a big-match player; he’s a Grand Slam winner. He’s playing tennis of his life, without a doubt, in the last 15 months.”

 

Three of Del Potro’s four victories at Djokovic’s expense have come while playing for his home country (two in the Olympics, one in Davis Cup) and a similar atmosphere may be in the offing for this one, as Del Potro will undoubtedly be the crowd favorite–led by the “Tandil Twelve,” his rowdy box of fans from his hometown in Argentina.

 

While Djokovic is the obvious favorite, Del Potro has been the best and certainly most consistent player in brutally hot conditions throughout this event. It just feels like it is once again his time.

Prediction: Del Potro in 5

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @TennGrand.

 

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